Corporate philanthropy, Better Cotton and Azerbaijan human rights campaign
HRW calls for EITI member suspension
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to suspend Azerbaijan, one of its founding members, following a series of restrictive new laws that stifle local non-governmental organisations.
EITI is a global coalition of governments, companies and civil society organisations working to improve the open and accountable management of revenues from natural resources. In 2009, Azerbaijan was the first country to be designated “compliant” with EITI’s disclosure requirements, and has maintained that status ever since.
Yet HRW says the government of Azerbaijan is actively working against EITI’s founding principles by clamping down on civil society participation, starting with the 2013 presidential election period, when 40 journalists and activists were imprisoned.
Since then, more than 20 independent organisations working on revenue transparency in Azerbaijan have been targeted, including several groups that sit on the steering committee that oversees the country’s EITI process, suffering frozen bank accounts or being refused registration of grants from foreign donor organisations.
“Azerbaijan’s government is squeezing activist groups to the breaking point while claiming to international audiences that it’s a leader on open civic participation and good governance,” says Lisa Misol, senior business and human rights researcher at HRW. “Azerbaijan is blatantly violating EITI rules, and EITI cannot afford to be complicit in this hypocrisy.”
Report details trends in corporate giving
A new report by the UK’s Charities Aid Foundation analyses the state of corporate giving among FTSE 100 firms.
The report defines corporate giving as a company’s total contribution as calculated by the “LBG model” (named after the London Benchmarking Group that devised it), which includes cash and in-kind donations, the monetary value of employee volunteer hours, and management costs associated with volunteer initiatives.
Analysis of financial accounts submitted by the FTSE 100 reveals that total giving amounted to £2.5bn in 2012, up by £1.2bn since 2007. Yet the majority of giving was concentrated among just 10 companies, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all donations made by the FTSE 100 over the past six years. Only 22 companies allotted 1% or more of their pre-tax profits to corporate giving, while 54 companies donated less than half a per cent and 20 companies gave less than 0.1 per cent.
The report also identified a substantial disconnect between corporations’ philanthropic efforts and public perception. Only 21% of British adults surveyed think that more than half the UK’s 100 biggest companies donate to charitable causes each year. The reality is that 98% of the FTSE 100 reported annual corporate giving.
What’s more, while the pharmaceutical industry leads as the most generous sector, 51% of British adults believe that the consumer services sector is the most philanthropic, followed by the consumer goods sector. Charities Aid Foundation attributes this misconception to consumer-facing companies’ high brand profile and splashy public campaigns.
“Given their expanding reach and influence in society, companies should be encouraged to make a more meaningful and effective commitment to not only investing in charitable causes, but to assessing and reporting the impact of their charitable activity through a fair and consistent framework,” the report says.
WWF and Ikea release Better Cotton Initiative report
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Ikea have released a joint report on the progress made in the cotton industry through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).
BCI is a multi-stakeholder initiative working to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable global cotton industry, and counts a host of big brands as members including Ikea, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, H&M, Levi’s and Nike.
Spearheaded by WWF, the BCI is built on six social, economic and environmental principles that define Better Cotton, and has developed a framework to monitor, measure, and evaluate its production.
In 2005, WWF and Ikea began working together on several joint projects in India and Pakistan, where farmers received hands-on field training in more sustainable cultivation practices. Since then, the number of farmers employing BCI’s sustainable farming practices has grown from 500 to 43,000.
In Pakistan, 2013 project results show that farmers of Better Cotton used 37% less pesticides, 22% less chemical fertilisers and 21% less water than conventional farmers, and saw a 29% increase in their gross margins. Participating farmers in India produced even better results, using 38% less pesticides, 29% fewer fertilizers, and 24% less water, plus a 45% increase in gross margins.
azerbaijan corporate charity corporative giving cotton human rights watch Ikea WWF